Sunday, June 29, 2014

Recipe: Chocolate Chip Cookies

This is our family's favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe. We discovered it in Chef Chloe's vegan dessert cookbook. I especially love it because the ingredients are ones that we already have, and we don't have to purchase anything weird

Chocolate Chip Cookies
Recipe Source: Chef Chloe Coscarelli, Chloe's Vegan Desserts

Makes about sixty 2 1/2-inch cookies

2 1/4c. all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1 c. vegan butter (Earth Balance is a good choice)
3/4 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. water
1 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 c. semisweet chocolate chips
1 c. chopped pecans, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 or 3 large baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

Using a stand or hand mixer, beat butter, brown sugar, sugar, water, and vanilla until fluffy. Slowly beat in the flour mixture. Once the flour mixture is incorporated, add chocolate chips and pecans. Scoop about 1 rounded tablespoon of dough at a time onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between each scoop. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the edges are golden. Let cool on the pan and serve.


For some reason, even hours after the cookies have cooled down and the days following, the chocolate still stays gooey and delicious, as if it just came out of the oven.

My husband agrees that this is probably the best chocolate chip cookie he has ever had, vegan or not.

We've had these cookies both with and without the optional pecans. They're delicious either way.

Something else I love about these cookies? We can eat all the raw dough we want! Who doesn't love raw chocolate chip cookie dough?!?


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Recipe: Vegan Brunswick Stew

Brunswick Stew is very popular in the South, and especially popular in most barbecue restaurants in the eastern part of North Carolina. A typical plate would include Eastern Carolina pork barbecue, coleslaw, hushpuppies, perhaps some fried chicken, and of course a side of Brunswick Stew. While I have never cared for the other foods on the plate, I always liked Brunswick Stew. Here, it is typically made with shredded chicken and sometimes pulled pork, but seeing that I no longer partake of chicken or pork, I had to find another alternative.

After hunting for recipes on Pinterest, I found a couple of people that used the hearts of palm to mimic the texture of the shredded chicken. I had never worked with hearts of palm before, but I figured it was worth a try. I found it at Harris Teeter and it was a bit pricey (almost $6 for the jar). But I'm glad I made the purchase because it turned out to have the perfect texture of shredded chicken, without all the cruelty and cholesterol. It also doesn't have much of a flavor at all, so it absorbs the flavors of the stew quite well.

I tried the other vegan recipes for Brunswick Stew but none of them seemed to have the right flavor I was going for (my husband, a lifelong eastern North Carolina resident, agreed), and they were lacking some of the vegetables found in the Brunswick Stew around here.

After a few tries, this is what I finally came up with.

Eastern North Carolina Brunswick Stew
Recipe Source: Jenny's Creation

1 14 oz. jar hearts of palm
1 large onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 russet potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1-14 oz. can diced fire roasted tomatoes
1-15 oz. can tomato sauce + 1 can water
16 oz. frozen yellow corn
8 oz. frozen baby lima beans
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 c. barbecue sauce
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1/4 c. molasses
1 Tbsp. liquid smoke
1/4 tsp. black pepper
salt to taste

Prepare the hearts of palm. Remove them from the jar and discard the juice. Cut each palm in half lengthwise. Pull out the tender middle of the hearts and shred using your fingers. Slice the remaining outer part of the hearts into very thin strips. See photos below for a visual step-by-step.

In a large pot, heat the olive and sauté the onions, celery, and garlic until tender. Add the shredded hearts of palm and barbecue sauce. Then add the fire roasted tomatoes, corn, lima beans, and potatoes. Cook for a few minutes, then add the tomato sauce, molasses, liquid smoke, and soy sauce, black pepper, and salt. Cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about an hour. Reduce to simmer and cook for 3-4 hours, or until potatoes have reached the desired tenderness.

Note: This recipe could probably be made using a crockpot, cooked on low heat for about 8 hours.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Weekly Menu for 6/28 - 7/4

I am looking forward to this weeks menu, as this week includes a holiday and I love holiday meals! It means I get to "pig out" and eat desserts and let the kids eat whatever they want (for the most part... they will still need to eat something descent before they get dessert, as I don't want to deal with tummy aches later). Most of the week is pretty easy as far as meals go, because I'm hoping that "nesting" will kick in and I'll be busy preparing for baby.

Reminder: I start my menu planning for Saturday since that is the day I do my grocery shopping.

Our menu this week is as follows:

Breakfast: Cream of Wheat w/ Agave and Strawberries
Lunch: Leftovers or Peanut Butter Sandwiches
Snack: Popcorn
Breakfast: Chocolate Chip Waffles
Lunch: (late breakfast, snacks or leftovers for lunch before church)
Snack: ----
Dinner: Boca Vegan Chik'n Patties
Breakfast: Cereal & Fruit
Lunch: Peanut Butter & Banana Sandwich
Snack: Teddy Grahams
Dinner: Baked Penne w/ Vegan Italian Sausage 
Breakfast: Cinnamon Sugar Toast 
Lunch: Veggie Strips (Vegan Chik'n Fingers) w/ Tater Tots
Snack: Pears
Dinner: Veggie Fajitas, Rice, Refried Beans
Lunch: Tofurkey "Turkey" Sandwich
Snack: Apples &  Peanut Butter
Dinner: Sweet & Sour "Meatballs" w/ Veggie Lo Mein 
Breakfast: Biscuits and Gimme Lean Sausage
Lunch: Peanut Butter & Crackers, Raisins
Snack: Applesauce or Fruit Cocktail
Dinner: Homemade Pizza
Vegan Fourth of July Feast
While the meals are pretty easy, I'm not looking forward to this weeks grocery bill! Because I'm getting so close to my due date with Baby #3, I'll be doubling up on some of the recipes so that I can freeze them for later. Definitely want to make sure my kiddos are fed while I'm in the hospital and I really don't want to be busy in the kitchen when I get home (or running out to the grocery store).

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Recipe: Spanish Rice

This dish is ridiculously easy that I'm surprised I don't make it more often. It's loaded with vegetables and uses a healthy grain to fill you up! My kids absolutely love it and as a busy mom, I love one dish meals with very little prep work.

Spanish Rice
Recipe Source: Jenny's Creation

8 c. prepared brown rice (3 c. unprepared + 6 c. water)
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 large onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1-4 oz. can olives, chopped (or more or less, depending on your love of olives)
1-16 oz. bag frozen corn
1 can petite diced tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce

Cook brown rice according to package directions.

In a large pot, cook the onion and bell pepper on medium heat until tender. Add garlic. Then add olives and frozen corn. Once the corn is thawed, add the can of diced tomatoes (do not drain them). Once the vegetables are heated thoroughly, add the brown rice. Stir until well combined, then add the can of tomato sauce. Heat through, then serve.

Add a can of black beans for some protein.
Add green chiles if you want some heat.
If you desire a casserole, get out your 9x13 dish and sprinkle some vegan cheddar cheese on top. Bake at 350 until cheese is melted.

If you're a meat-eater and must have meat with your meal, you can add a pound of ground beef to the dish. This is how I used to prepare it before I switched to a vegan diet. I would then put it in a casserole dish and top with cheddar cheese. It would ruin the health and cruelty-free aspects of the dish, but to each his own.


Weekly Menu for 6/21 - 6/27

Being a vegan, I get asked often what I eat. There are a lot of people who still don't know what a vegan is and how it compares to being a vegetarian. When I explain the difference, I get some crazy looks and they think all I eat is lettuce and tofu. While lettuce and tofu are both delicious when prepared properly, vegan food is so much more than that and can be quite tasty. I try to prepare most of my meals from scratch, but with two children and getting close to my due date with my third, processed foods like fake meats (generally, I try to keep those to a minimum) have started gaining popularity on our menu for the time being.

One big misconception about vegan food is that it's very expensive. It can be expensive for some people, but I prefer to cook "veganized" versions of more normal types of food, and stick to a strict budget ($600 a month for food and all other essentials--shampoos, soaps, detergents, toilet paper, clothing, toys, etc.). I probably spend less money on food than most non-vegans. It's all about careful planning and not being wasteful.

Each week, I try to plan out a menu for the week, make my shopping list, and buy everything I need in one big trip to the grocery store. Sometimes I go to two different grocery stores, as the cheaper one doesn't carry a lot of vegan essentials and their produce is not always the best. Here in the South, my "go to" stores are Food Lion (for the basics at a cheaper price) and Harris Teeter (for fresh produce and special foods).

Because I typically do my grocery shopping on Friday afternoon or on Saturday while my husband can watch the kids, I begin my menu on Saturdays.

This week, my menu is as follows:

Breakfast: Vegan Coconut Yogurt & Granola
Lunch: Maple "Bacon" Tempeh and Tomato Sandwiches
Snack: Popcorn
Dinner: Spanish Rice
Dessert: Hot-Fudge-on-the-Bottom Cake w/ Vegan Ice Cream
Breakfast: Pancakes w/ vegan breakfast sausage (Gimme Lean Sausage)
Lunch: --- (our Sunday breakfast is more of a brunch, so we're still not very hungry around lunch time and will either eat leftovers or some sort of snack before we go to our 1:00 p.m. church service)
Dinner: Chili Dogs, Loaded Baked Potatoes, & Corn on the Cob
Lunch: Vegan Chik'n Fingers w/ Sweet Potato Fries
Snack: Apples & Peanut Butter
Dinner: Breaded Eggplant w/ Spaghetti & Marinara Sauce
Breakfast: Sausage Biscuit (using the second half of the tube of Gimme Lean sausage from Sunday)
Lunch: Peanut Butter & Banana Sandwiches
Snack: Teddy Grahams (not something I typically buy for the kids, but we still have some leftover from a road trip)
Dinner: Bean Burritos
Breakfast: Cereal & Fruit
Lunch: Pizza Hummus w/ Triscuits and Fruit
Snack: Popcorn
Dinner: Sesame Tofu, White Rice, & Green Beans
Breakfast: Cinnamon Toast
Lunch: Peanut Butter, Crackers, & Raisins
Snack: Pears
Dinner: Southern Black-Eyed Peas w/ Biscuits
Breakfast: Vegan Coconut Yogurt and Granola
Lunch: Sloppy Joe's
Snack: Fruit Cocktail
Dinner: Grilled 'Cheese' Sandwiches & Tomato Soup

To satisfy anyone's curiosity on the cost of groceries this week, the total comes to: $105.36. This also includes things like soy and almond milk, vegan butter, orange juice, grape juice, and other things that are not necessarily on our menu but we do consume each week or that I'm running low on and like to have on hand.


Thursday, June 19, 2014

I'm back!

After a much needed break from blogging, I am back. We’ve done so much in the past couple of months so I’ll have to just give a brief summary.

We took a trip to the mountains and visited one of my favorite places:

The main reason for going? These:
We looked at local wildlife at the Western North Carolina Nature Center:
They have wolves, coyotes, foxes, otters, black bears, and other native wildlife. I recommend them for anyone visiting that part of the state. We enjoyed it more than a visit to the zoo.

We mined for gems and found a good sized emerald, explored the Linville Caverns, and on the drive home we took the kids to the temple grounds:
We planted our garden:
Went to a local museum where we learned how corn meal was made long ago by local farmers (and spent some time with cousins while we were there):
Our Sugar Plum had her first ballet performance:

We went on a family trip to Myrtle Beach where we played in the sun:
The Sugar Plum also ended her first year of gymnastics:
And completed her swimming lessons for the summer (a 2-week session):
All that before summer has officially begun!
I have also been keeping busy trying new recipes, planning homeschool lessons, playing with the kiddos, and preparing for baby #3.

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